CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Rising sea levels and weather events could cause $20 billion of flood damage to homes across the United States this year, according to new data from the nonprofit group First Street Foundation.
The report titled “The Cost of Climate America’s Growing Flood Risk” analyzes the economic impact of “underestimated” flood risk to residential properties within the country. The new research also maps out the areas that present the highest risks and how much the flooding costs will increase 30 years into the future.
In South Carolina there are 78,838 residential properties (between one to four units), that have substantial flood risk that are expected to have a collective loss of $1.2 billion this year, the report shows.
The city of Charleston is estimated to have the greatest loss in 2021 with homeowners expected to have a loss of $300 million.
Elizabeth Boineau, the owner of E. Boineau & Company in Charleston, was once the owner of a historic home on Beaufain Street.
She had to demolish the home and sell the lot for half of what the house was originally worth, due to extensive damage from Hurricane Irma.
“My experience with flooding runs from 2015, 2016, 2017, and the three of them are from the thousand-year flood followed by [hurricane] Matthew, followed by Irma. Each one scarier and scarier and scarier until elevating the home or demolishing the home would be the only answer,” Boineau said. “In my situation finances were never going to work to rebuild the home, it became cheaper to bail.”
She said the report shows some real flooding issues that the state itself and the city of Charleston are dealing with, and it needs to be handled.
“[This is] what this climate challenge we’re going through is going to bring about if we’re not careful, thoughtful and really truly re-think the way we operate in our own lives,” Boineau said.
Charleston city officials say they are working on several approaches to deal with all the issues that encompass flooding in the city - whether it’s high tide flooding, rain fall, storm surge or compound flooding.
“In the second sea level rise strategy, we concluded that there’s a way to approach this holistically and the way we have chosen to do it is working well for us right now,” Charleston Chief Resilience Officer Mark Wilbert said. “We’ve identified five critical components to dealing with this flooding issue and it’s flooding from all costs.”
The first component focuses on land use, in particular identifying places where building should or should not occur, as well as how the building is taking place.
Wilbert said the city is also looking at governance, which will help drive how things are built in the city and looks at stormwater regulations.
The third focus is on infrastructure projects, like the Battery Seawall and the ongoing project with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that could result in a flood wall around Charleston’s peninsula.
The last two components look at resources to identify funding for the projects, and outreach to homeowners and the community.
“It will never be cheap, but it will be less costly if we wait to do it in the future and we certainly don’t want to wait for bad things to happen to us for us to react,” Wilbert said.